Samsung has no doubt shelled out some serious cash to be an official Olympic sponsor in Sochi, and now it’s exercising some of that weight it paid for.
As part of their Olympic goodie bags, athletes will be receiving Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones. That’s a pretty nice gesture from Samsung, but it is asking (demanding?) something in return. If athletes are using anything other than a Samsung device during the games, they must cover up the logo. So athletes are expected to put a piece of tape or other kind of cover over the Apple logos on their iPhones, among other brands.
According to CultofMac, Samsung made the same request at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, though it remains unclear what happens to those who don’t bother covering up their competitors’ logo.[more]
Such is a recurring problem at every Olympics as athletes with sponsorship deals have to contend with Rule 40, which does not allow the athletes to represent non-Olympic sponsors during the course of the Olympics. It’s an unfortunate reality for brands that have sponsored athletes throughout their careers, but an even more awkward and uncomfortable position for athletes that are forced to swap out equipment like shoes or gear to satisfy an Olympic team sponsorship.
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) January 29, 2014
“I understand the Olympics are a moneymaking game, but it’s sad for me to have all these sponsors who have really taken care of me and gotten me to the point that I’m at, and I’m on the biggest stage I can possibly be on, and I can’t give them the representation they deserve,” said Nevada freeskier David Wise, according to the Denver Post. “It’s unfortunate for us.”
Social media has made this problem more difficult to control as the London Olympics saw athletes tweeting with the hashtags #wedemandchange and #rule40 to show their discomfort with the situation. Samsung seems to be inviting that kind of disdain with its request for athletes to hide other logos.
The same rule applies to brands that advertise using Olympic athletes or the Olympic story line. Guinness, for instance, produced a touching commercial featuring two American biathletes who happen to be sisters. One of them gave up her spot on the team so the other one could go compete, but the ad had to be pulled form the web last week ahead of the non-sponsor deadline. Nike took advantage of Olympic fervor without being an official sponsor back in 2012 when it ran a commercial that didn’t mention the Olympics but evoked the spirit of it.
“We are seeing fans carrying messages for the athletes,” said John Grady, a University of South Carolina professor who specializes in athlete management and battling ambush marketing, the Post reports. “And trying to regulate social media in any context is going to be a losing battle. Now, the consumers are tweeting about athletes and products. Clever marketing online spreads messages to a wider audience in a crazy, unregulated space. Rule 40 hasn’t kept pace with technology and it will challenge Olympic organizers.”
Samsung Group’s chairman, Lee Kun-hee, is a member of the International Olympic Committee, but that hasn’t stopped nay-sayers from calling out the brand. though he won’t be at the Olympics this time around, according to chosun.com.
European politician Rob Goring tweeted his disdain at the directive, though Goring has an Apple logo next to his Twitter handle, so he may be a bit biased.
— Rob Goring (@gori01) February 5, 2014
That’s not it for the brand woes in Sochi, though. Chobani, the category-leading Greek yogurt, is apparently being held up at the Russian border. “Unfortunately, this protein-packed, New York-made food has met a serious roadblock in the Russian Government, thanks to an unreasonable customs certificate, and they will not allow the yogurt into the country,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said, according to NBC News.